After graduating, Katya Adler initially briefly worked for The Times before moving to Vienna in August 1995 to work for Mondial Congress, an organiser of International Congresses. She began working as a correspondent for Austrian national public broadcaster ORF in late 1995, reporting locally and then internationally from Kosovo, Eastern Europe and across Southwest Asia and North Africa.
Katya Adler joined the BBC in Vienna in 1998, reporting on Austrian and Central European affairs. After becoming the BBC’s Berlin correspondent for a short period, from 2000 she was based in London for the BBC World Service presenting on European current affairs, and commuting weekly to Berlin to work as a news anchor for Deutsche Welle Television.
From August 2003, she was the BBC Madrid correspondent, travelling around Europe, Southwest Asia and North Africa to cover stories including the deaths of Pope John Paul II and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in a Paris hospital. Adler also reported on the Madrid train bombings. She admitted in an interview in 2019 that she had lied about being able to speak Spanish to get the Madrid correspondent job. Katya Adler later learned the language by listening to Spanish political radio and Mexican soap operas.
From December 2006 Katya Adler was the BBC’s Middle East correspondent, based in Jerusalem but reporting around the region from Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Libya. During this period she was also an occasional presenter or interviewer on HARDtalk.
Katya Adler has also presented a number of one-hour documentaries, such as Mexico’s Drug Wars for BBC2. Her film Spain’s Stolen Babies was runner-up for an RTS award in 2012.
At the end of April 2014 she was appointed the BBC’s Europe editor, replacing Gavin Hewitt. Her appointment was controversial because her LinkedIn profile stated that for 15 years she had regularly facilitated conferences for a number of clients including one for the European Union. This brought about criticism from Conservative Party MPs, including Andrew Bridgen and Philip Davies. Davies stated: “this cosy relationship between the BBC and the European Commission severely undermines your editorial integrity and ability to report matters in a strictly objective manner.” The BBC in written response clarified that Adler had at the time been working freelance for the BBC and a number of other broadcast organisations, and in 19 years had only been paid to chair one EU event in 2005, invited by the UK presidency, not the European Commission.
In early February 2017, the BBC broadcast a documentary by Katya Adler titled After Brexit: the Battle for Europe in which she examined the mounting challenges facing the European Union over the next few years. In June 2017 Adler became one of the four presenters of Brexitcast, a BBC podcast covering Brexit. In September 2019, Brexit Newscast became a regular television broadcast fixture on BBC1, usually following BBC Question Time, as of December 2020.
As of 2019, Katya Adler was paid between £205,000-£209,999, placing her on the list of the highest-paid BBC news and current affairs staff.